“What inspires you?”
As I sit here with the notepad open on my iPod getting ready to spill my thoughts on my flight headed back to California, I realize I have no idea how to wrangle them all in a way that makes sense. As Ellie Goulding’s “Halycon” album plays in my ear, I’m reaching for the proper verbiage that can accurately express the impact I not only had on the great state of Minnesota, but more so the impact it had on me.
I went to Minnesota with many purposes and several goals at the forefront of my circus brain. I know there was a lot expected of me, yet none even dare hold a candle to the expectations I have of myself.
Before I continue further I feel it extremely important to express to you, the reader who I humbly appreciate taking time out of your life to care about what I have to say, in on something that most people may not know… As I boarded that plane in San Francisco last Friday, I had a certain feeling I tend to hide away from the world. An emotion I have often yet try not to show too often. Every day I feel this at some point or another in varying degrees for various reasons, but this day was the most intense I’d felt this in a long, long time…
I was absolutely terrified. Scared out of my mind. Beyond any words that I could possibly pull out of my scrabble bag of eccentricity to try to guide your brain into understanding exactly how I felt as they called for boarding group 4 to step onto that 10:30am flight.
Understand that to me, I am but a former fat kid from little ol’ Windsor California who has nothing but a big dream of changing the world and empty pockets that match my acceptance for failure. I am a broken man who, in the grand scheme of things, has figured out very little. In my 26 years on Earth I have come to understand that the more I broaden my horizon the bigger my hard drive for “life data” becomes. Essentially, the more I think I know, the less I truly do.
In every speaking engagement I have ever done and will ever do, I am careful to remind everyone that I am merely an ambassador. A representative for the many, not an isolated individual furthering myself from the pack. The things I have accomplished are small potatoes compared to some stories, but much like I accept everyone’s mountain to climb as their own, I hope everyone does the same for me.
With that said, I am nowhere NEAR the top of my climb, but you better goddamn believe I’m going to continue to climb with the strength of a silverback gorilla and the terror of an animal just trying to survive.
What I HAVE figured out is this; it’s COMPLETELY ok not to be ok. I have found that in transparency there is truth. In this lies remnants of what I feel is lost in this world… A tribal bond. I want nothing more than to climb my mountain with as many rebel souls that are willing. I’ve found that in putting my palms out and showing my scars, it gives permission for others to do the same.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s excruciating every single time I share all of me with everyone. There has not been one instance in which I have stood in front of a group of people and bared my soul, shared my experience with bulimia, depression, self mutilation, and bullying where I haven’t reverted to that scared boy who still lives inside my heart. I imagine my heart as Aunt Petunia and Uncle Vernon’s closet beneath the stairs, and that little boy is Harry Potter; scarred yet powerful.
Why do it then? My give everything I’ve got to strangers I’ve never met? Why go through hellfire day in and day out as people ask me about my past and wonder about my future? What is the reasoning behind reliving the pain this lifetime has shared with me?
Because I am FAR from the only one. With every opportunity I have to share my journey, I get a chance to peep into the souls of people just like me… damaged and just trying to make it. So what makes me different? What makes me special? I’ll tell you… I am relentlessly unapologetic to a fault for who I am and what I believe in and I just so happen to be really fucking loud about it.
Most people know that one of the most endearing and near-to-my-heart monikers I’ve ever had the honor of being bestowed with has been being referred to as a “Nerd Superhero.” It means everything to me because that means I’m the guy who *I* looked up to when I felt hopeless, and still do even though I’m overflowing with hope nowadays.
The guy who stands for good. The guy who has built himself into a machine beyond his wildest dreams who rather than use his newfound power for revenge and self-absorption instead fights for the ones who don’t know how fix themselves but want to more than anything. These “superpowers” have given a voice to the voiceless. An AHHHOOOOO to those who only know a hanging head and settling-for-sad comfort zones.
Now lets get to what had me so terrified in the first place… In the 5 days I was in cold ass Minnesota, I was tasked with the following:
1) kick off a community challenge of 168 participants in Litchfield followed by a boot camp with the goal of not only getting everyone PUMPED on this 3 month health and wellness endeavor, but getting through to those who don’t really feel they belonged there. Igniting the heart and souls of those who feel alone and not only reminding them how important it is to take their mind and body back, but more importantly showing them they are not alone. They don’t have to feel isolated anymore. There IS a spot in this world for them. The fitness rebellion.
2) speaking at a meat processing plant in St. James to blue collar employees on their lunch break with the same goal in mind as Litchfield, but on a more personal scale. I sat with these amazing people on one of their most cherished hours of the day and watched their defiance turn to a planted seed before my very eyes. They had NO idea I was coming thus had no idea who I was. All they knew was here was some long haired Californian who was about to talk about fitness. Only that’s not what I talked about… I talked about pain.
I reminded everyone they HAVE A CHOICE. You are met with crossroads every single day of your life… Which road do you take? The smoothest that leads nowhere or the rough one with the ultimate destination: self worth. That was the seed I planted. I watched it grow and blossom in a mere 60 minutes time. They came in feeling like “just get this over with kid” (I know because they told me) and left by signing up for a tour of the local gym, shaking my hand, and asking how they can be a part of the rebellion.
3) Launching a rebel program in New Ulm that is run exactly as described above making it exactly like our down home Santa Rosa rebels. Drew and Lori are the rebel leaders tasked with hoisting their own shovels high with a rebel yell, spreading the rebellion message in a way where everyone understands they are a part of something breathtakingly huge. With their spray painted banners and infinite compassion, they led the charge right there with me. I spoke for 45 minutes to the pack of 21 daring individuals before leading a 40 minute boot camp with these awe-inspiring rebel leaders and I can tell you… Look out for these two. It is impossible for them to fail because they care just as much as I do. They have the same heart and compassion, and absorbed every bit of what I HAVE figured out coupled with a program I KNOW works because I have meticulously designed it for years. After the boot camp, they had 7 new sign ups. My first challenge ended with 5.
4) I was asked to be a guest speaker at an alternative learning school in front of 2 groups of about 100 young adults. I spoke once at 10am and again at 1pm. These kids truly know the exact pain I’ve been through. Most have stories and experiences I choose not to share for the sake of privacy for these amazing young adults. As I calmed the butterflies I always get before I speak, I pushed the podium they gave me to the side because that was the antithesis of why I was there. I stood in front of these youth (as a youth myself) who know nothing but rejection and defiance, and I opened up my chest cavity and exposed EVERYTHING. I told them every graphic detail of my journey (mixed with my own brand of humor that they thankfully found funny) and pleaded that if they walked away with ANYTHING from what I had to say then I wished it to be this; that every single one of us knows true pain, they are not alone, and it’s never too late to love yourself. I begged them to understand that their body was the plane and their brain was the pilot, and THEY were in control… We always have a choice. I concluded with a squat exercise I do
with rebels back in my neck of the woods to show them that if they can physically dig deeper then why couldn’t they mentally and emotionally? Afterwards I was swarmed by these teens who are normally used to rejection as we all bonded together, took pictures, exchanged Facebook pages, and simply laughed. Together. As one unified group. I heard “you’re the BEST speaker we’ve ever had! You changed my life man… I never knew I was so strong…” enough to make me shed tears that night quietly as I recollected on how much they will NEVER know how much that meant to me (I hope some of you are reading this). The higher ups in charge of the school said they have never seen any of this group listen so intently. They’d never seen these young adults participate with one another so happily before. They’ve been known to eat guest speakers alive, but not me… I said “well, it’s because I represent real life and give them permission to hurt and make it acceptable to hug it out with someone rather than take it out on someone. They accepted every bit of me because I accepted every bit of them.” Afterwards I was interviewed by the local paper who said they’d never seen someone do what I did in that room before…
5) That night In St. James, the very town where that meat processing plant was that I spoke at the day prior, I was all set to kick off ANOTHER rebel boot camp pilot program with the amazing Beth Henderson and Jill Augustin (another original rat pack member). Marv and Jill Augustin are the owners of the two clubs that we were launching these rebellions at, and were not only vital to me being there in the first place but showed me more hospitality than any “thank you” gift or string of heartfelt words could ever relay. They were also the ones who introduced me to Beth, a fireball of energy who just like Drew and Lori has the heart of a lion and the soul of a rebel. A true rebel leader through and through, she is most certainly another amazing person you are sure to hear more about. With her fantastic partner-in-crime Kristin, they had their shovel all ready to be raised and praised in front of the group of 22 “ruffians” who showed up, ready to get down with the get down. My warm-up was an interview with a local reporter by the name of Tyson as to why I was there. Their warm-up was me speaking to them about the revolution they were leading and didn’t even know while heavily being sprinkled with the essence of all the things I wrote about above. After 45 minutes, we got into some rebel planks and exploded from there. My GOD these people rocked it! I saw the same things I’d seen in Litchfield, at the processing plant, at Riverbend School, and New Ulm… The fierce tenacity of human spirit grasping at this newfound empowerment with everything they had. Afterwards, everyone gathered around and shared stories of how hard-yet-amazing what they just took part in truly was as I grabbed Jill by the shoulders and quietly said “you see what’s happening?” Her response was deafening in its simplicity…
Now that I have chronicled my Minnesota memoirs in a way that I think BARELY does any of this justice, this is what I want you to take away from the novel you just read;
I was terrified, but I put myself out there with everything I had. I took my passion and dream for a world I truly believe can be better and stared failure in the face as my butterflies turned to fireworks. I had something I wanted to do, and I sprinted towards it with everything I had damning the possibility of letting people down because if I let THAT fear control me then I would have accomplished NONE of the miracles of humanity I witnessed in sub zero temperatures. We all have our own visions and hopes of things we want to do with our lives, and if I had let that gut-wrenching, cold sweat inducing voice in my head convince me I was surely going to fall short, I never would have stepped foot on that plane.
This is where it comes full circle and goes back to those crossroads and
Choices I talked about earlier…
We all have our own “plane” to step foot on. If you don’t take that first step, you’ll never know how amazing you really are.